Vayeira – Genesis 18:1 to 22:24: God appears before Abraham and Hagar as angels five times in this reading …. Do angels still appear today? ——————-
The parsha begins as Abraham is resting after his circumcision. He was probably in discomfort from this procedure as this week’s text begins …. “The Eternal appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre as he was sitting at the entrance of the tent at about the hottest time of the day. Looking up, he saw: lo – three men standing opposite him! Seeing [them], he ran from the entrance of then the entrance of the tent to meet them, and bowing down to the ground he said, ‘My lords, if I have found favor in our sight, please do not pass your servant by.’” Abraham then brought water, washed their feet, asked them to rest by the tree, and brought them bread, milk, and meat… and stood over them by the tree as they ate. (Gen. 18:1-8)
This is how Abraham treated the passing traveler! Little did he know that they were angels … or “messengers of the Eternal” ready deliver a message to him and his wife Sarah. One of the messengers tells Abraham, “Rest assured that I will return to you at this time next year, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” Both are very surprised because of their advanced ages. (Gen. 18:10)
This is the first of five appearances of the “messengers of God” or angels that occur within this parsha. These include:
- Two messengers visited Lot and his family before the destruction of that city. (Gen. 19:1)
- The messenger led lot and his family out of Sodom. (Gen. 19:15)
- An angel appears to Hagar as she and her son, Ishmael, were alone in the desert, without water. (Gen. 21:17)
- An angel calls out to Abraham as he is about to sacrifice his son. (Gen. 22:10)
These accounts of angels remind me of a story I heard years ago … It was very popular and you probably heard it too …. But, bear with me…..
There was an old man who was caught alone during a major hurricane in Louisiana. A policeman had come around and warned him to evacuate, but he didn’t follow the advice. He was sure God would protect him and his house. Then, as the water rose, a boat came by and offered him passage out of the area. He declined and said that God was with him and he was safe. Later, the water was nearing the rooftop on which he was now standing. A navy helicopter neared his home and offered help. He yelled back that he didn’t need the government’s help. God was with him and he would be safe. Hours later, as the rains continued to fall, the man called out to the heavens, “Oh Lord, I am waiting for your help… Send me a sign!” …. A voice called out in reply, “I sent you a man with a warning which you didn’t heed. I sent a messenger in a boat and you declined. I just sent a helicopter and you said the time to leave was yet to come….. What do you want of Me?”
In this week’s parsha, we read that God sends messengers in the form of men to deliver messages and be of assistance to Abraham, Lot, and Hagar….
And today …. Are there angels or messengers from God to assist us? ….. There may be…. These contemporary angels may not be sent directly from God for a specific chore. But, each of us has that spark of Godliness within us. When the proper time comes every person may have what is needed to help…. To provide food for the hungry…. To save a person in danger …. To be the medical researcher who creates a medicine to save lives …. Or the congressman who proposes funds that lead to a cure for cancer.
Just as in this week’s parsha, and the story of the old man and the hurricane, two things are needed for the divine messenger to become a deliverer of good. First, there must be a messenger. The messenger can be sent by God – as we have read this week – or the messenger can be inspired by God. This person answers the need with a “Hineini” I am here! I am ready! I am willing! This person is a messenger of God’s will. And that person could easily be you or me.
The second requirement for the success of this messenger is the person who is listening or watching for the help, then acts to receive it. Abraham could have told the three angels that he was in pain and couldn’t be bothered by them today. Lot could have refused to assist the visitors. They didn’t. Both were ready to listen, help, and assist the stranger. As a result both received the message and benefits of these messengers.
Neither the role of the giver or the receiver is easy. But, Torah teaches that this is the way to create a better the world around us. These messengers carry out the work of God…. They work in partnership with the Eternal, bringing the teachings of Torah to the world….
“Hineini” … Are we ready to answer the call once it is made …. Are we ready to listen and watch for these messages from God and accept them.
When both occur, steps toward an improved world have taken place. May we all learn from the messengers of God that have read about in Vayeira.